ANTHONY BERKELEY – The Mystery at Lovers’ Cave. Roger Sheringham #3. Simon & Schuster, US, hardcover, 1927. Jacobsen Publishing Co., US, reprint hardcover (shown), 1927. Originally published in England as Roger Sheringham and the Vane Mystery (Collins, hardcover, 1927).

   “You are getting ready to be Roger Sheringham,” Tommy remarked to Tuppence in Agatha Christie’s Partners in Crime. “If you will allow me to make a criticism, you talk quite as much as he does, but not nearly so well.”

   As befits someone whose early works were sketches for Punch, Anthony Berkeley excelled at light, witty dialogue. He began writing about Roger Sheringham to satirize the great detectives of literature, and this book, like the later and more famous Poisoned Chocolates Case, emphasizes the detective’s foibles rather than his brilliance. The plot is relatively simple. A nasty woman has been pushed off a cliff,. and Roger hies off to investigate the case for a newspaper.

   He sometimes makes clever deductions, sometimes misreads the evidence, and always has the amused attention of the official policeman, especially after Roger’s cousin falls in love with the chief suspect.

   Berkeley handled physical evidence and setting well, but the book is worth reading primarily for the dialogue. As Agatha Christie pointed out, Roger talks constantly but always entertainingly.

– Reprinted from The Poison Pen, Volume 4, Number 5/6 (December 1981). Permission granted by Doug Greene.